While the Last Spike was driven on November 7, 1885 completing the transcontinental line, lack of ballasting and the need to construct snow sheds on the Mountain Subdivision resulted in the line being shut down for the winter. It wasn’t until June 28th 1886 that the first east to west passenger train, the Pacific Express, left Montreal on its 2,900-mile (4,667 km) journey, arriving in Port Moody, British Columbia on Sunday, July 4th. The next day it returned east to Montreal as the Atlantic Express.


Passenger service was scheduled on a daily-except Sunday basis. So it was a couple of days later that the second Atlantic Express departed Port Moody for the east. Apparently all went well until it emerged from the Beaver River valley west of Beavermouth where it encountered a fierce forest fire on either side of the tracks.

The engineer stopped the train to consult with a section crew that were watching cordwood and were assured that the track was still safe for the short run into Beavermouth.

The engineer proceeded and expected to get through without difficulty.

But, upon coming opposite two long piles of wood near the west leg of the wye a portion of it fell over the track in front of the tender and baggage car derailing them both.

In no time the baggage, a sleeper and first class cars caught fire and were consumed. The conductor and train crew only managed to rescue one sleeper.


The mail clerk saved the mail but burned both his arms and feet having run through the fire with only his slippers on. The fireman was also burned on the arms running through the bush. The baggage car attendant was unable to save the baggage because burning wood was piled up against the side of the car outside the door. The paymaster was unable to save $10,000 in money also on the train.


The telegraph wires being down, it took some time for news of the situation to reach Donald. As soon as it did, the Superintendent and all the spare men that could be gathered proceeded to Beavermouth. But it was some hours before they could reach the wreck due to fires between the Columbia River crossing west of Donald and Beavermouth. The wreck was cleared, the track repaired, and the remaining sleeping car with the passengers was sent through to Donald as the Atlantic Express.

While the wreck was being cleared the foreman of the Stoney Creek section came down the line on a hand car with news that the fire extended up the Beaver River valley as far as Stoney Creek Trestle. Locomotive #94 with the help from Donald headed west to assist in saving the trestles. Surprise Creek Trestle caught fire three times but owing to the exertion of the men was extinguished each time. Many of the structures were saved due to the forethought of clearing trees to create firebreaks.


Partially constructed snow shed along with construction material on the ground also came under attack but were saved owing to the fact that all the men constructin them turned out to fight the fire.


On the 1887 route (MBC1887) I have shown the aftermath of the fire around Beavermouth but have left the Beaver River Valley, as it would have looked without the ravages of the forest fire.

Approaching the Columbia River valley from the Beaver River Canyon.

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Emerging from the Beaver River valley.

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Looking east from the mouth of the Beaver River valley towards Beavermouth.

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Gravity, Steam and Steel: An Illustrated Railway History of Rogers Pass. 2009. Graeme Pole, Fitzhenry and Whiteside.


Van Horne’s Road. 1974. Omer Lavallée, Railfare Enterprises Ltd.



December 16, 2016

December 16, 2016


Cordwood on fire beside the tracks at Beavermouth.

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Telegraph and power lines down at Beavermouth.

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Looking west up the Beaver River valley.

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